With unemployment back to levels not seen since before the Great Recession, a new poll from Gallup reveals that more than half of U.S. employees are watching the job market or actively looking for a job.

51% | Percentage of U.S. employees considering a new job 

As the economy improves, employees start looking for new opportunities.

As the U.S. economy and employment have improved since the Great Recession, workers are more likely to “quit” their jobs than to be laid off, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (see chart). While this has been a slower “jobs recovery” than following previous recessions, economic rules still apply: Fewer unemployed people and more jobs give workers greater flexibility to change jobs. As we move into period of what economists call “full employment,” the options available to workers grow even greater.


Why do employees want to switch to other jobs?

“I want to do what I do best.” According to the Gallup study, the “opportunity to do what one does best” is the top-ranked reason employees give for considering or taking a new job. The ironic reality is, Gallup’s research of employees who have changed jobs reveals  that “doing what I do best” doesn’t kick-in until about the three-year mark of working in a new job—and that increases even higher after workers have been with a company for 10 years or more. In other words, “doing what one does best” is more likely to occur from staying longer with a company than from leaving.

The value of retaining an employee:

It’s tough to say precisely how much value an employer loses when a worker leaves, because factors such as job complexity and skill level must be factored in. Still, according to some estimates, it can cost up to 150 percent of the employee’s annual salary for high-level employees—for example, as much as $150,000 for a worker with an annual salary of $100,000. (Gallup)

How can your company retain employees?

A sense of “engagement” is the key to an employee’s satisfaction with their job, says Gallup. Overall employee engagement dips significantly for workers under the 10-year mark, their analysis shows. But there are effective strategies that companies can use to reverse that trend.

Cultivate employees’ strengths during the honeymoon period.

To retain new workers and get them off to a fast start, look for ways to help them apply their strengths early in their careers, and select managers who have the talent to identify and maximize their team members’ talents.

Focus on development for long-term employees.

Gallup’s findings reveal that long-term employees do not feel as supported as employees who are new to a company. Companies need to find ways to create learning opportunities and provide feedback to retain and engage top-level employees throughout their time at the organization.

Help all employees know their expectations at work.

Talking about expectations requires more than just handing employees a list of job duties. Expectations also include knowing how to prioritize responsibilities and how those responsibilities connect with other jobs in the company.

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